Off on another South East Asian adventure! Or at least after 23 hours of flight time I will be.
As expected, there have been a couple of minor travel incidents. I arrived at the airport and tried to check in at the kiosk but got an error message and was directed to the "resolution desk". There. I was told that I did not have a seat on this flight. It was then that I recollected, about a month ago, Priceline called me and said that American Airlines had changed the flight time to LAX and because of that, we would miss our connection to Shanghi and they needed to change me to an earlier flight. Not a big deal, except for the fact that apparently they only changed it on the itinerary, not in the actual ticketing system, so the airline still has me booked on the old flight. This, the woman at the desk informs me, is a problem. Fantastic.
So I stand there, wishing for a paper bag to breathe into, while we wait for the manager to arrive. Arrive she does, and she is......how can I put this nicely?- an unsympathetic bitch. No hello. No apology. Certainly no smile. Just a frosty explanation that, it's really between Priceline and I because it's Priceline's fault, not theirs. I'm torn between bursting into tears and leaping over the counter to rearrange her face, but I don't think either of those actions are going to get me very far with the ice queen. Instead I say that I don't actually care whose mistake it is, I want her to tell me what I need to do to fix it because I'm trying to get to Vietnam for my birthday. I get no response, she continues typing away at the computer for what feels like an eternity, turns to the other woman behind the counter and says, "That's really all we can do," and walks away. What!?! I wait for the woman to tell me I'll be spending my birthday alone in the Beirut airport or some other equally appealing scenario, but she doesn't say anything either and keeps typing away. I finally can't take it anymore and ask her if I should continue having a panic attack or if I'm going to get on this flight. Turns out, "That's really all we can do," means "I fixed it, you're all set, sorry for the inconvenience," in bitchspeak.
Picture-less visa doesn't turn out to be an issue and we make it to our gate without a problem, unless you count forgetting your newly acquired boarding pass and your passport in the bin at the security screening area- which I may have done and not realized until my name was announced overhead throughout the airport, suggesting that I return to security and collect them.
The 15 hour flight itself was okay. I woke up from a 2 hour nap to be served some truly terrible airline pork and rice, so I ate the accompanying square of cheesecake and went back to bed. I got about another 4 hours of sleep in before I was awakened by a baby a few rows back who decided that she was over this whole flying thing & was going to let everyone know about it for the next hour or three. That was followed by 2 hours of staring a George Clooney's dreamy face for the inflight movie & another sub-par airline meal. By then I was ready for another nap and before I knew it the flight was over.
We landed in Shanghai and had about 4 hours to kill before the next flight. A couple of facts about the Shanghai airport- they do not sell backpacks, they do not have ATMs, and they do not have soup dumplings. So all in all, a rather disappointing experience there.
I was knocked out for the entirety of the flight to Vietnam except when they came around with what was by far the strangest assortment of snacks I had ever seen arrive on a tray. It had onion cookies (who thought that was a good idea?), radish spread, a roll with a mini hotdog hidden inside (that is not the kind of birthday surprise I was looking for, I need to know in advance if I'm going to be consuming a hotdog so I can get in the right mental state), some sort of fruity flavored bread, and two cookies that were a cross between an Oreo and those cardboardy sugar wafers.
When they woke us up to land I had turned 30 in the interim, and Nattie gave me a disposable camera that prints the pictures with birthday borders on them, so that was a pretty awesome start to a new decade.
The visas that we got online ahead of time proved to be nothing more than a way to rid ourselves of $25 pesky American dollars, as we waited in the same line with everyone else, and still had to pay an additional $25.
After paying a taxi driver an astronomical amount of money to drive us to our hotel, the Ha My 2, and unsuccessfully attempting to haggle with the front desk to get a deal on the room they would clearly not be renting out to anybody else at 1:30am, we ditched our bags and went out for something to eat.
The guy at the hotel gave us a recommendation for a 24 hour noodle place that turned out to be awesome. We sat down at a little table on the street and had some delicious, delightfully spicy, noodle soup and a couple of birthday beers before heading back, full in my stomach and my soul, to the hotel for our first horizontal sleep in 2 days.